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The Baigong Pipes: Natural Formations or Remnants of an Ancient Civilization?

In 2002, a series of long, hollow, pipe-like cylinders were found in caves within Mount Baigong, China. Analysis has revealed that the curious formations date back to at least 150 thousand years ago. But what is it? Some researchers explain that the "pipes" are formations of natural origin, others are convinced that they are finds left by an unknown civilization that lived more than 150 centuries ago!

The Baigong Pipes.
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The Baigong Pipes.

Inside Mount Baigong, about 40 km from the city of Delingha, in Qinghai province, China, in 2002 three mysterious cavities were found filled with what appeared to be pipes intended for transporting water.

The cavities are located within the front face of Mount Baigong. Only one of the three cavities is fully accessible, as the mouths of the two smaller caves have collapsed.

The curious cylindrical formations, red-brown in colour, had a wide range of sizes, with diameters varying from 2 cm to 4.5 centimeters, all oriented towards east-west. Inside the same cave, dozens of similar tubes placed in a vertical position were found.

The pipes apparently appeared to be used to draw water from nearby Lake Toson (about 80 meters away), as some sections of pipes were found protruding onto the lake shore or just below the surface.

The Toson lake.
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The Toson lake.

The strangest part of the story is that the finds, as revealed by the Beijing Institute of Geology, dated back to around 150 thousand years ago.

Therefore, if this were the case, there are two possibilities: either they are curious natural formations, or they are something forged by human beings, which means admitting the existence of a human civilization that existed at least 150 centuries ago, a fact that would force the history of humanity to be dramatically rewritten.

The dating of the finds was carried out using thermoluminescence, a technique capable of determining how long ago a material was exposed to high temperatures.

Some natural sources of radiation can suffer a constant loss of electrons over time, which accumulate in defects in the crystalline structure of the material.

By heating these bodies, the accumulated electrons will be released, generating a particular luminescence of the material; by analyzing this phenomenon, the quantity of accumulated electrons and therefore the age of the sample can be estimated.

Therefore, if it were a human artifact, the tubes would have been “melted” about 150 thousand years ago. The problem is that scholars say that the first inhabitants of the region did not arrive before 30 thousand years ago and that in any case they were nomadic populations who could never have left such artefacts behind.

The discovery was disclosed in a press release dated 19 June 2002 from the Chinese state agency Xinhua, which reported the presence of the tubes, not only inside the cavities, but also near the nearby lake, apparently as if it were a intricate water system.

Furthermore the entire landscape seemed littered with what witnesses described as a series of "strange stones" protruding from the ground resembling broken pillars.

The Baigong Pipes: Natural Formations or Remnants of an Ancient Civilization?
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Qin Jianwen, a Delingha government administrator, claimed that the finds had been taken to a local laboratory for analysis, revealing that they consisted of 30 percent ferric oxide, a large amount of silicon dioxide and calcium oxide, and a remaining 8 percent of content that could not be identified.

“The large amount of silicon dioxide and calcium oxide is due to the long iteration between the iron and the sandstone,” explains Liu Shaolin, the engineer who performed the analyses, “which means that the pipes must be very ancient ”.

“The results obtained make the site even more mysterious,” Qin commented. “Nature is very harsh here, so it can't be modern industrial waste left by someone.”

To add to the mystery, five years later, in 2007, Zheng Jiandong, a geology researcher with the China Earthquake Administration, said that further analysis revealed that some of the pipes were highly radioactive.

Although many researchers are convinced that we are dealing with finds that are the result of explainable natural processes, Dr. Yang Ji, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is convinced that they may have been produced artificially.

Indeed, the researcher goes much further, without excluding the possibility that "non-terrestrial beings" may have had some role in the construction of the structures, stating that it is an "understandable theory that deserves to be examined, but means must be used scientific to demonstrate whether it is true or not."

Without bothering extraterrestrials, other researchers have suggested that in reality the Baigong finds are evidence of an ancient human civilization of which traces have been lost: it would be a civilization that appeared over 150 centuries ago, a dramatic revision of human history.

Other theories

Jiandong himself evaluated the possibility that an iron-rich magma may have risen from the depths of the earth and insinuated itself into the cracks, until it solidified in the characteristic shape of tubes. However, as he himself admitted, "we are dealing with something truly mysterious."

Other researchers explained that the iron sediments may have been transported by the water and then deposited in the cracks during floods.

Another possibility is that the tubes are the fossilized roots of ancient trees. In 2003, Xinmin Weekly ( reported that scientists had found plant material in a new analysis of the tubes, also finding what looked like distinctive internal tree rings.

The article referred to a geological theory, according to which under certain climatic conditions, tree roots can undergo diagenesis (a chemical-physical change undergone by a sediment after its initial deposition and during and after its transformation into rock), transforming the vegetable first into rock and then into iron.

Almost everyone who believes in the natural origin of the tubes refers to the article published by Xinmin. However, it is not entirely clear how this theory relates to the Baigong finds.

Reference is also often made to an article that appeared in 1993 in the Journal of Sedimentary Research (, which describes the process of fossilization of tree roots found in southern Louisiana, United States.

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